PET bottles are safe, a comprehensive evaluation by the CSIR-Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore has determined.
For years there’s been a swirling debate internationally on whether PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) bottles, which are the mainstay of plastic bottles and disposable food containers, leach harmful chemicals when exposed to high temperatures.
The CFRTI analysis, commissioned by an industry body, concluded that antimony, arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead, mercury, selenium and zinc “were below” their detection limits (BDL) of 0.001 mg/kg.
Bisphenol-A was below its detection limit of 0.02 mg/kg.
For their analysis, the researchers collected four different kinds of PET containers and exposed them to different stimuli such as ethanol of varying concentrations, acetic acid and vegetable oil. These were supposed to simulate the kind of chemicals contained in packaged food and drink that could trigger the leakage of metals or other secondary chemicals. They tested these bottles when they were subject to 40C and 60C temperature as well as when test-chemicals were stored in them for 10 days.
Along with metals, the scientists also measured terephthalic acid, Isophthalic acid, Ethylene Glycol, BPA (bis-phenol A) and phthalates.
The CFTRI scientists found that the presence of metals, BPA and pthalates were “below detection limit” meaning that they were below the minimum levels required by the instruments and methods employed by the researchers to detect these chemicals.
They were also below the EU (European Union) regulation norms of the “specific migration limit”, which is the maximum amount of a substance that can migrate from a food packaging material or food container into food. In most cases the EU standards are similar to the ones specified by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, except for BPA for which FSSAI has not specified standards and zinc, where FSSAI permits 25mg/kg as opposed to the EU’s 5 mg/kg.
The analysis found that no chemcials breached the EU-specified norms.
“The studies further confirmed that antimony does not leach out of PET bottles. These findings further establish that no endocrine disruption happens from the use of PET bottles. The migration studies were at most stringent conditions of time, temperature and accelerated testing environment,” said a statement from Pet Packaging Association for Clean Environment (PACE), the industry body which commissioned the study.
Dr. Shekhar C. Mande, Director General, CSIR and Secretary, DSIR, Govt. of India, said in a statement: “ Of the plastics, PET is a unique and universal packaging material for food, pharmaceuticals, water, edible oils, personal care products, etc...This project is unique, as it investigated not only the leaching aspects, but also examined the composition/chemistry of PET and furthermore, even studied the endocrine disruption potential of PET. In this respect, the findings in these reports would be more relevant than those found in any standalone tests.”
The scientists also studied water stored in PET bottles and checked whether it affected the hormone levels of rats and mice.
“The evaluation found that the experimental male and female rats exhibited comparable blood hormone levels in both cases. This conclusively proved that PET bottles did not cause any Endocrine Disruption activity if used to package water,” a study report concluded.